I have a hard time thinking that protein, while important, is something we need QUITE SO much as some are led to believe.
John Robbins' "Diet For a New America" has a diagram showing a spectrum of calculations from authorities as far as our daily needs of protein, ranging from a low estimate of two and a half percent of our total daily calories up to a high estimate of over eight percent. The figures at the high end include built-in safety margins, and are not minimum allowances, but rather "recommended allowances".
This informative and ground-breaking book goes on to quote Dr. David Reuben as speaking for many informed scientists when he was asked who it is who needs the extra 30% allowance of protein. He answered:
"The people who sell meat, fish, cheese, eggs, chicken, and all the other high prestige and expensive sources of protein. Raising the amount of protein you eat by 30% raises their income by 30%. It also increases the amount of protein in the sewers and septic tanks of your neighborhood 30% as you merrily urinate away everything that you can't use that very day. It also deprives the starving children of the world the protein that would save their lives. Incidentally, it makes you pay 30% of your already bloated food bill for protein that you will never use. If you are an average American family, it will cost you about $40 a month to unnecessarily pump up your protein intake. That puts another $36 billion a year into the pockets of the protein producers."
"Nature, it seems, would agree totally. Human mother's milk provides just 5% of its calories from protein. Nature seems to be telling us that little babies, whose bodies are growing the fastest they will ever grow in their life, and whose protein needs are therefore at a maximum, are best served by the very modest level of 5% protein."
Even Arnold Schwarzenegger writes in his book, "Arnold's Body Building for Men" as follows:
"Kids nowadays...tend to go overboard when they discover body building and eat diets consisting of 50 to 70% protein - something I believe to be totally unnecessary...(In) my formula for basic good eating: eat about one gram of protein for every two pounds of body weight."
John Robbins notes that you could easily meet this quota without eating meat, eggs, or dairy products - if you only ate broccoli, you would still get more than 4 times the above suggested requirement!
Something especially important to the many women who post to this board is the evidence that excess dietary protein is a major cause of osteoporosis - as stated before, your body doesn't store protein - it gets rid of it. But...your body, in its effort to rid itself of excess protein, takes calcium from your bones. The incidence of osteoporosis correlates directly with protein intake. The countries with the most common occurrences of osteoporosis are the ones with the greatest consumption of dietary protein -- the US, UK, Finland, and Sweden.
In the 80's, Cornell University did what is still known as the largest and most comprehensive nutrition study ever done -- the 10-year China Project. This monumental study looked at the diets of thousands of rural and urban Chinese, and came up to some interesting conclusions:
"About four dozen different disease categories were available for investigation, including both the chronic degenerative diseases (e.g., cancers, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes) and the communicable, infectious diseases (e.g., tuberculosis, pneumonia, gastrointestinal).
When their geographic distributions were sought, it was found that the degenerative diseases tended to cluster in the more urbanized, industrialized counties while the communicable diseases were primarily found in the more agricultural counties.
The 'dietary and lifestyle' factors chiefly associated with the 'degenerative disease' counties included metabolic and dietary factors which characterize diets richer in animal products and higher in total fat.
These findings suggested that only small additions of animal based foods to an otherwise all plant based diet could elevate blood cholesterol (both total and LDL), thence to elevate the risk for the chronic degenerative diseases.
Average protein intake was only about 65% of the average intake in the US. But, more significantly, only about 10% of the protein was provided by animal based foods, whereas in the US, it is about 70%. Thus, on an energy intake basis, animal protein intake is about 10-fold higher in the US, thus causing major differences in many nutrient intakes.
Probably one of the most significant findings is the positive association of animal protein with blood cholesterol (both total and LDL) and the inverse association with plant protein.
Also, an increasing intake of plant protein is associated with ever increasing body stature (height) reached during adulthood. Thus, a good quality plant based diet can lead to 'big' people."
Whew! Long post! This is for Just A Veg and anyone else interested in learning more about how we eat affects both our health and the health of our planet - if you haven't already read it, pick up John Robbins "Diet for A New America" (should be at your library). I am sure you will find it a compelling read...
Here's the link for the China Project website:
Sorry to go on so long... just had to put in my two cents (as usual!).